The Perfect Ski Trip Packing List You’ll Want for Vacation
Check out our ski trip packing list for your next trip. Come wintertime, we pack up our bags and begin chasing the snow. In this post, we cover some tips, tricks, and gear that we’ve come to love over time. REI Co-op has everything you need to cover the gaps and prepare for your next ski trip.
After all, you are relying on your clothing, gear, and accessories not only to have a good time but to keep you safe as well. Whether it’s your first ski trip, your first time traveling with your gear, or your tenth trip to the snow, it’s never a bad idea to make sure you are adequately packed.
What To Wear on The Mountain
Thermals/Base LayersWool SocksSnowboard JacketInsulated JacketShell Jacket
Midlayer JacketSnowboard PantsShell PantsBibsInsulated Pants
Mitts or GlovesBalaclavaBuff HeadwearGogglesHelmet
Base layers or thermals are the first line of defense against the cold. It’s vital that the base layer is moisture-wicking, dries fast, and is comfortable for all-day wear. We like a large waistband for the legs and a top with a collar for better protection. A great option is to have top thermal with a 1/4 zip as it allows you to dump heat when you get hot.
A quality base layer is made from a natural fiber like wool as it has excellent technical advantages. Wool can resist odor, wick away sweat or snow, and provide a lot of warmth. If wool is cost-prohibitive, choose thermals from a polyester or nylon blend. Do not wear a cotton base layer as cotton pulls body heat away and remains wet for an extended period. After testing, we’ve found Smartwool’s Merino 250 to be some of our favorites. They have tremendous comfort and performance.
Base layers for your legs are also great for walking around the town or a resort. You don’t want to wear your ski pants to the bar, but jeans may be too cold. However, if you slip on a pair of thermals underneath, it makes life a lot warmer. When purchasing, note size charts as top and bottoms sizes can be different.
Shop Smartwool Merino 250 on REI
Wool Performance OTC Socks
For the average ski trip packing list, I would suggest two pairs of ski socks and three pairs of socks if it’s an extended trip. Like thermals, opt for a material such as wool or synthetic for your socks. When skiing, do not wear cotton socks as it will almost certainly lead to cold feet. Any pair of wool socks or warm synthetic socks will do the job for most.
However, ski or snowboard socks are cut high up the calf to protect the skin from the boot. Many brands also offer dynamic panels on the heel and shin where pressure and abrasion are most likely to occur. Then they add more insulation and moisture-wicking material around the toes. They’re definitely worth the price if you ski a lot!
At the very least, opt for a medium or slim sock. Loose or bulky socks can trap moisture and bunch up, which results in cold feet. On that note, do not wear two pairs of socks as they will also trap moisture. The key to warm feet is dry feet! Smartwool and Darn Tough make some awesome ski socks that will keep your feet happy.
What Jacket To wear for A Ski Trip?
There are many jackets available, and every company has a multitude of options. Most choose from two basic options for jackets, insulated and shell. A three-layer system that consists of the shell jacket with a mid-layer and thermals offers the best performance. However, it can be expensive and a little cold for beginners and intermediates.
An insulated jacket is considered “resort wear,” and it’s a perfect jacket for most to have as it works well in everyday life. Resort wear insulated jackets come in a wide variety of price points and performance packages. Most casual skiers, resort-focused skiers, beginners, and intermediates should consider an insulated jacket instead of a shell and mid-layer.
A jacket is the most critical item to pack for a ski trip. A lightly insulated jacket with a waterproof shell and snow skirt is best for most skiers and riders. We ride with a shell jacket for our resort wear jacket that contains light insulation from Picture Organic Clothing. It has many sweet features such as wrist gaiters, a snow skirt, and a helmet-compatible hood. The Bio-Sourced exterior shell on the jacket has performed beautifully and kept us dry on deep days in Jackson Hole, WY, and Snowbird, UT.
Another great option is the Columbia Whirlbird IV Interchange Jacket, as it provides excellent value. Granted, it doesn’t have any of the performance or sustainable cred like Picture. We are big fans of Columbia due to its accessibility and reliable products. As a side note, every ski jacket should be helmet compatible and have a snow skirt as a minimum. If it’s your first time, don’t go out and purchase a new jacket. Wear your best winter jacket and accept you’ll probably get some snow down your pants.
Columbia Whirlbird IV On REI
A hardshell jacket uses a waterproof and windproof material that offers superior protection from the elements. These premium jackets most commonly utilize a multilayered nylon GORE-TEX material for the jacket’s exterior. As a result, a hardshell jacket provides exceptional protection from the snow, wind, and moisture. Hardshell jackets are excellent, but they come with a high price tag, and most lack any form of insulation.
We use the men’s Arc’teryx Sabre AR and women’s Sentinel AR shell jackets. These are top-of-the-line jackets built to handle everything ski and snowboard. The rugged jackets keep us bone dry in adverse conditions, and the brushed flannel interior feels excellent to the touch and disperses moisture to dry fast. They are costly but considered the gold standard. They make for great resort jackets, but truthfully we spend a lot of days in the resort in more affordable jackets.
Shop For Arc’teryx Shell Jacket On REI
If you opt for a layering system, then a mid-layer jacket is where you’ll get the majority of your warmth. Mid-layers go on over your thermals and operate as a jacket for when you’re not skiing or snowboarding. These jackets come in a wide variety of fashions, and we have several different types for different conditions.
Down jackets provide excellent warmth in dry conditions, but they are expensive and lose insulation when wet. Synthetic down jackets provide slightly less heat than traditional down but can handle wet conditions well. The most affordable option is a fleece jacket, as it allows for plenty of warmth at an affordable price. It’s not technical enough for extreme conditions, but the average skier shouldn’t be out in adverse conditions anyways.
We both use synthetic down jackets from Arc’teryx as our mid-layers. The jackets are versatile, lightweight, provide excellent warmth, and handle moisture exceptionally. It’s tough to beat their classic Arc’teryx Atom LT Jacket. Another great option is the Better Sweater from Patagonia.
Shop For A Midlayer Jacket
What Ski Pants to Wear?
There are three basic styles of pants to wear hardshell skiing pants, bibs, and insulated pants. Hardshell pants tend to fetch the highest price tag and offer the most significant technical capabilities but provide little to no insulation.
Bibs come in both shell and insulated versions and offer the most outstanding protection from snow. However, they are more expensive than pants and can be too warm for mild ski days. Insulated pants are friendly and generally the most affordable as entry-level pants. The insulation can make these pants the most restrictive or hot on a mild day.
We would advise that you need a lot less insulation in the legs than you think. It’s not your core, and it’s where the vast majority of your movement comes from when you ski. Everyone’s body is different, so you should dress for what’s comfortable for you.
Hard Shell Pants
A robust pair of hardshell pants are excellent at complete protection from the winter elements. They generally have very little to no insulation, as insulation would hinder their breathability and performance. Shell pants are usually bomb-proof for sending off jumps and tackling steep lines in the resort or backcountry.
Expert skiers and riders will appreciate quality shell pants like the Arc’teryx Sabre & Sentinel pants. They’re robust ski pants that feature elements like rear leg zips for ventilation when climbing mountains and kevlar-enforced insteps to prevent cuts from crampons or ski edges. However, the only insulation comes in a thin flannel brushed interior. They are not for sitting around in the cold.
Many pants are much more affordable and provide plenty of performance. You can pick up more affordable shell pants from a wide range of gear companies like Outdoor Research, The North Face, Mountain Hardwear, and Helly Hansen.
Shop Arc’teryx Shell Pants on REI
Bibs come with a ton of advantages! If you have a season pass to a ski resort and plan on chasing the powder, then a pair of bibs is a worthy investment. They’re fantastic on deep powder days (pretty much mandatory in Japan) as the extra protection keeps you dry.
It’s a great pant to add in rotation to your ski outfit. Most importantly, bibs keep deep snow out of your waistline as the opening extends well up to your chest. Other sweet features include the addition of breast pockets, added warmth around your core, and a comfortable pant with no pressure on the waistline.
If it’s a powder day and I feel like crushing pillows or sending it off cornices and drops, you’ll find me in my bibs. Some excellent brands for bibs are 686, Picture Organic Clothing, and REI Co-op. They have outstanding performance, value, features, and some sweet designs.
Experts will find a lot less use for heavily insulated snow pants than an insulated jacket. They tend to restrict movement and generate too much warmth. However, most recreational skiers and riders will appreciate the added warmth. They are perfect to cruise down beginner and intermediate runs or relax on the mountain with a hot chocolate.
If you’re a weekend warrior or take one ski trip a year, consider some decent pants like The North Face Freedom pants. They don’t cost an arm and a leg but deliver a heck of a lot of performance with a waterproof exterior and synthetic insulation.
If you want something even cheaper, bargain shop around. REI Co-op offers some excellent deals during their Garage Sale. I spent several short weekend trips when I started snowboarding in $50 snow pants I got on sale. They kept me happy and warm enough.
Shop For North Face Freedom Pants on REI
Mitts or Gloves
Quality gloves will be your best friend on the slopes because cold hands or feet will ruin your day. The main reason people don’t enjoy skiing or snowboarding is due to the cold. When dressed appropriately, you’ll never be cold.
There are a ton of options for gloves! However, snowboarders should consider a pair of mittens. Mitts keep your fingers together and allow less surface area to the cold. It means your hands stay warmer in mitts than gloves. Snowboarders don’t hold ski poles, so it’s an easy decision to wear mitts.
We went through a couple of pairs of soft gloves and mitts made from synthetics when we started, and they all kept our hands warm. However, they kept wearing out, so we switched over to Hestra leather gloves a couple of seasons ago, and they show no signs of wearing out any time soon. A worthy investment for any who rides a lot, plus they look sweet!
It’s always good to pack some snow protection for your face. We’ll go without anything on sunny days, but we expect snowy conditions on the mountain more often than not. We generally switch between two different styles of face protection.
The primary for bad weather and cold days is a merino wool balaclava. We’ve tried a bunch of different balaclavas, and it’s tough to get one that doesn’t collect tons of moisture before freezing to your face. As for the best warmth and performance, we’ve found the balaclava from BlackStrap can do wonders.
Shop For BlackStrap The Hood Balaclava
The balaclava is for cold days or heavy snow. On most days, we get by just fine with a Buff that can be worn around our neck or pulled to cover the face when needed. They make several versions of the original Buff, but the merino wool version is excellent and only $10 more.
Unless you’re on a budget, getting quality goggles is a good idea. They are an essential part of your ski outfit and a lifeline when riding more demanding terrain. Goggles protect your eyes and aid your vision on the mountain.
The Smith Mag 4D are the latest and greatest in snow goggles and what we’ve been using for three seasons now. With that new technology, expect to pay a premium at $320. Of course, they are arguably the best ski goggles on the market. If you don’t want to drop $200-300 on goggles, there are some excellent budget options.
For only $60, you can grab the Giro Semi that includes two lenses for low light and sunny days. Or you can try out a relatively new brand Outdoor Master that gained a lot of traction on Amazon.
Shop For Smith 4D Mag Goggles
Not wearing a helmet is a thing of the past. Do yourself and your noggin a favor and wear a helmet when you snowboard. A helmet applies whether you are a beginner or an expert. The great thing about helmets is that they keep your head and ears warmer than hats!
We rock the Smith Quantum Helmet as it’s considered one of the best helmets on the market. It provides robust protection around our head, plenty of ventilation, and a cozy soft interior. The easy-to-latch and unlatch helmet buckle can take off with gloves on! It also features MIPS technology which allows the helmet’s interior to move independently from the shell minimizing lateral brain trauma in an impact.
After getting a concussion last snowboard season, while wearing a helmet, it’s not something I plan to forgo anytime soon.
Shop For smith Quantum Helmet
Thanks to ski films, it feels like music and snowboarding go hand and hand. In reality, it can be tough to listen to music while you snowboard. There are two options, both of which come with significant downsides.
The first is a Bluetooth speaker in a backpack that is incredibly obnoxious and doesn’t sound all that great when riding. The other more dangerous option is earbuds that are uncomfortable with a helmet and hinder your hearing on the mountain. However, you can now opt for wireless audio housed within the helmet.
Aleck headphones are audio pucks that slip into the padding of a helmet and double as comms. They are long-time partners with Smith and fit wonderfully in the helmets. Installation is easy, and the audio quality will surpass most expectations. They are comparable to far more expensive over-the-ear headphones.
Shop For Aleck Headphones
Apres Ski Packing List
You’re not just packing for the mountain; you also need everything for when you’re off the mountain. What you wear off the mountain varies a lot by region. The three distinct ski regions of the Northern Hemisphere all have different styles off the hill. We won’t make as many recommendations on products here as you likely already have a lot of this stuff at home.
In North America, it tends to be a lot more casual. A down jacket, flannel shirt, jeans, and boots are classic. You can tie elements of western wear into your outfits. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise since most skiing takes place out West. However, head to the Alps, and it’s a different affair.
The outfits worn on the slopes of Switzerland would get laughed off the mountain in America and Canada. Don’t be surprised by fur coats, dresses, sleek sweaters, or metallic down tops and bottoms. Europe tends to be more fashion-forward and flashy than its North American counterparts.
Last you have Japan, where freeride culture heavily influences the scene. Here you’ll find people off the mountain in powder ski gear. In comparison, the Japanese themselves dress modestly in relaxed outdoor gear like down jackets or parkas.
Parka Down JacketSweaterFleeceSoft Shell PantsJeans
LeggingsSwimsuitWinter BootsGloves or MittensEarmuffs/HeadbandHat/Beanie
If you want a stylish jacket, it’s hard to do much better than a Parka for apres ski. A parka is far warmer than your traditional ski jacket. Of course, you don’t need a parka, but we always pack one well-insulated coat for our trip. If you’re worried about how to pack a parka, wear or carry the jacket onto the plane.
We prefer a park cut to the knee and down as the insulator. I’d advise you not to get hung up on the fill-power of down in a parka as it’s not a technical piece of gear.
Consider this an addition or instead of a Parka. Down jackets are great as they offer a lot of performance but still have a trendy look. They come in a wide variety of styles, and you can find trendy ones that look very fashion-forward.
It also depends on the destination or the season, as a down jacket is lighter and packs easier but offers less warmth than a parka. Our three favorite down jackets are Arc’teryx, REI Co-op, and Patagonia.
Shop For Down Jacket
REI Co-op Down Jacket 2.0
There’s always room for a comfy sweater in our winter travels. Since we live in the mountains, we’ve got a nice collection. Sweaters are all about personal preference, but we love a classic wool sweater.
They are stylish but unpretentious and feel right at home in a mountain town. Throw one on and head out to dinner or drink at the bar. You can also sub a comfy cardigan for a sweater, but anything that’s provides some casual style is a great call. We love a classic style like the Fjallraven Lada for Men or the REI Co-op Wallace Lake Mock for Women.
Shop For Wool Sweater on REI
If there is one pant I throw in my bag for any trip, it’s a versatile softshell or hiking pant. Softshell pants are great for winter sports around town or heading out to a nice meal. We’ve found the most versatile pant to be the prAna men’s Brion Pant or the women’s Halle Pant.
The pant is a blend of nylon and spandex with excellent moisture and temperature management. These pants also look pretty good as everyday pants that can go anywhere in the Mud and Dark Khaki colors.
These pants are what you want if you are after slim-fitting pants that can still accompany you to work or on a hike up the mountains when you are back at home. They also happen to be some of the best travel pants.
If you’re skiing in North America, it’s pretty tough to beat the style of a pair of jeans. Cowboy culture runs deep, and it feels right at home throughout Colorado, Alberta, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming. A stylish pair of jeans are great to wear anywhere in the world. If you’re worried about being cold, wear your thermals underneath.
Leggings are warm, flexible, and even can substitute as thermals. Plus, you can take off your snow pants after a day on the mountain and be ready to go to the bars. Fleece-lined leggings offer much-needed warmth versus the traditional style that will leave you feeling cold.
Who doesn’t love a good hot spring or heated pool!? Winter weather might not conjure up an idea of swimwear, but we always pack a swimsuit for a ski trip. After all, there is no better way to take of those sore muscles than a good soak.
You aren’t going to stomp around town in your ski or snowboard boots. Pick up a pair of functional but stylish boots like Sorel’s Caribou boot. Of course, it all depends on your destination. Some places are higher in elevation or receive more snow at the base than others, requiring higher ankle boots.
Shop For Sorel Caribou Boots On REI
Gloves or Mittens
I suggest bringing at least one pair of casual gloves or mittens for just walking around. I personally like the ones that have touchscreen fingertips. It’s also common for many ski-specific mittens and gloves to come with liners that work well for casual use around town.
It doesn’t matter what you choose, but it’s good to keep your head warm. Always pack at least one or two toques or hats for cold weather travel. I’m not too picking about my beanie as it’s not a technical piece of clothing. I chose an awesome beanie from Patagonia called the Powder Town that I’ve loved for the past ski seasons.
Ski Trip Packing List Gear
I’m not going to go into too much detail here. As you know, your gear will be going to your ski trip packing list. If you don’t own your equipment, you will be renting or borrowing from a friend, and chances are you won’t have much say.
We won’t get lost in the details around gear, but many readers ask about traveling with ski gear, so we do have a recommendation for a ski bag. If you are going ski touring, you’ll want to make sure you have the best touring skis for the backcountry as well.
Ski or Snowboard BootsSkis or SnowboardBindingsSki PolesWater BottleDaypackEdge ToolWax IronWaxWax Scraper
MultitoolEmergency Blanket/First Aid Kit*Skins*Crampons*Telescopic Pools*Ice Axe*Probe*Beacon*Shovel*Inreach*
Ski Trip Accessories
You don’t need any of these things, but they will make your ski trip more enjoyable! It’s the easy stuff that you can forget.
Snowboard or Ski BagSunglassesThermosHand and Toe Warmers
Snowboard or Ski Bag
You were wondering how to pack for a ski trip flight? If you’re traveling on your gear, you will need a snowboard or ski bag. We like to use the Dakine Low Roller Bag. It has plenty of space to fit two snowboards with bindings, a pair of snow pants, and two boots. A lot of stuff!
It’s a tight squeeze, but it’s gone off and on dozens of flights effortlessly and has wheels so we can roll the bag everywhere. They make several sizes, so make sure you get the right size for your ski or board.
I don’t know about you, but I cannot be in the sun without sunglasses. Maybe it’s my fragile blue eyes, but I always feel blinded by the sun and snow. A good pair of athletic sunglasses should be in your bag if you want to protect your eyes from the sun while having a beer outside. I like Smith Optics. They are expensive, but they are worth it for active holidays if you aren’t prone to losing sunglasses.
If you want hot coffee or tea in the morning on the slopes, I would recommend packing a thermos full of your favorite brew. We picked up this sweet thermos from Stanley that comes with a cup top.
Hand and Toe Warmers
I usually have a backup pair of these in the suitcase just in case. It’s best not to rely on hand warmers or toe warmers. They are cheap if you buy them in bulk before getting on the mountain. However, if you end up needing them, ski resorts love to overcharge because they know you’ll buy them if you’re cold.
Quite possibly the most important thing in my coat pocket. Make sure to pack extras for your ski trip as they are easy to lose. We like to use natural chapstick like Burt’s Bees.
Yes, you can get sunburnt in the snow. Especially on a bright day, the sun will bounce off the bright snow and reflect right back at you. If you are fair-skinned, I recommend packing a travel-size bottle for your face.
We couldn’t travel anywhere without a toiletry kit. We include all necessities like toothbrushes, hair products, deodorants, razors, etc. Also, it’s always a good idea to bring plenty of balm or lotion as dry cold mountain air can damage your skin.
These are the apparent necessities we’ll need for a trip, like our passport if it’s international or our driver’s license. Also, make sure to check your insurance or travel insurance to see if it covers ski accidents.
You are not getting out of the country without your passport. Remember to make sure you have the necessary pages blank in your passport and that it does not expire within the next six months. Also, we always carry ours in a passport wallet to protect it from damage.
We rent cars a lot when we travel, so I always make sure I have my license for the trip. In Europe and Japan, you need an IDP, so I make sure that I have a translated version of my license. Also, when renting a car, make sure to pick up a great travel credit card for primary can rental insurance.
We always make sure all travel plans are on our phones with relevant pdfs and dates verified before landing.
Not all plans travel insurance plans cover ski accidents. Make sure that you have coverage abroad or pick up a short-term plan.
Tips For What To Wear Skiing
Dress for your level of exertion
If you’re starting snowboarding or an intermediate, we suggest dressing a little warmer. As a beginner, you’ll spend more time standing, sitting on your butt, falling, and not snowboarding as much.
You spend more of your concentration on the movements vs. your energy. When it becomes second nature to turn, you make a lot more. An expert bombing a double black chute uses and similarly creates a lot more energy. If you’re an expert rider, dress a little cooler.
Get the Basics
Invest in the basics, such as thermals and socks, when you’re just starting. They provide the most bang for the buck in terms of warmth. It’s easy to get lost in the weeds when it comes to gear, but if you can manage to keep your base layer dry, you’ll be just as warm in a $100 jacket as a $900 jacket. Take our recommendations with a grain of salt!
Dry Feet Are Warm Feet
Always keep your socks dry when you get ready. My socks are the last thing I put on before my boots. I’ve had days with cold feet because I walked into the bathroom to brush my teeth or got sweaty driving to the ski resort. It makes a huge difference!
On that note, it’s a good idea always to dry your boots, gloves, and even your goggles. Never leave those items in a cool or damp location. It’s not hard to bring these items inside and store them in a warm/dry spot.
How Do I Wear This?
When you first wear snowboard or ski-specific clothes, straps, skirts, and gaiters can all be a little confusing.
Socks — We’ll touch more on this later, but socks should go above the calf and protect your skin from the boot.Pants — The gaiter located inside of ski pants goes on the outside of the boot. It is designed to keep snow from entering the boot and it does an exceptional job at this.Jacket — Jacket layers over the pants — this includes the powder skirt or snow skirt. Many jacket producers have pants and jackets that interlock, but this often requires for it to be the same brand.Gloves — You have two options for gloves long cuff and short cuff. If the gloves have a long and wide cuff they go over the jacket sleeves. If the gloves have a short and thin cuff they go under the jacket sleeve.Goggles — Are worn over the helment, not under. The only people who wear them under are park riders who have hit their heads a few too many times. Truthfully, you can wear them which ever way is most comfortable. Helmet — Please wear a proper ski helmet that offers protection for the back of your head.
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